This dissertation is a reading of literary texts from 1990-2005 by four authors of immigrant extraction in Germany and Scandinavia. I ask how these authors engage in both a reality of multiculturalism and a discourse of multiculturalism. The project is organized around the tension in these texts between negative experiences of ethnic and global disadvantage and positive representations of minority identity and cultural mixture. I argue that the four writers-Feridun Zaimoglu (Germany), Bertrand Besigye (Norway), Jonas Hassen Khemiri (Sweden) and Emine Sevgi Özdamar (Germany)-combine in their texts a serious critique of the dominant culture with a playful, critical, often provocative outlook on identity. In light of recent theoretical critiques of the terms "multiculturalism" and "minority", I defend the value of minority perspectives and sensibilities to contemporary German and Scandinavian society, identity and culture.
I start my discussion with an analysis of the Kanak identities in two of the Turkish-German Feridun Zaimoglu's texts. I discuss how Zaimoglu's appropriation of the derogatory word for foreigner in Germany serves a critique of a dominant German culture reluctant to embrace its new ethnic minorities. Then I analyze the Ugandan-Norwegian Bertrand Besigye's prose poetry. I show how cultural and racial difference can be used playfully to insert difference into a national identity too narrowly and homogenously defined. In Jonas Hassen Khemiri's texts, I discuss how Khemiri criticizes the ethnic definitions assigned to immigrants by the Swedish majority culture and how he pushes for a more open, cosmopolitan national identity. Engaging with the Turkish-German Emine Sevgi Özdamar's texts, lastly, I examine how the author's conciliatory and humorous attitude toward the reality of multiculturalism potentially fosters cross-cultural identification and more open and generous identities. In the end, I show that a multiculturalism worth defending is one that acknowledges persisting ethnic and racial inequalities and prejudices while it at the same time expands the horizons of our cultural, national and individual identities.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2008. Major: Germanic Studies. Advisors: Poul Houe and Arlene A. Teraoka. 1 computer file(PDF), iv, 244 pages.
Karlsson, Elisabeth Helena.
Towards a multiculturalism for the 21st century : German and Scandinavian literary perspectives, 1990-2005..
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